Healthy Ingredients For Dogs

These are the known healthy ingredients deemed to be dog friendly (safe and beneficial) which I use in Kirby's recipes. He eats a rotation of these healthy, fresh foods which are vital to his good health.  It is updated on a regular basis. 

Almond Milk is lactose, dairy, soy, gluten, egg, saturated fat, MSG and peanut free. It is derived from almonds which are rich in vitamin E antioxidants, vitamins A and D, and has as much calcium as regular milk.

Anchovies are high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, niacin, and selenium and very low in calories. Because they're small fish that are low on the food chain, they're unlikely to harbor high levels of mercury, PCB's, dioxanes, or other contaminants. Soak the anchovies in milk for 10-15 minutes to remove the majority of salt. 

Apples are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C which can help hip dysplasia, a common ailment in large and large, purebred dogs while low in saturated fat and sodium. Apples help calm the digestive system and has the ability to help the body absorb calcium and iron from other foods.  Beware of apple seeds which contain amygdlin, a form of cyanide that prevents the blood from carrying oxygen throughout the body.  If your dog has kidney trouble don’t give him apples because they contain calcium and phosphorous which can greatly aggravate the problem. 

Avocados are an excellent source of fiber, potassium (containing 60% more  than bananas), vitamin K, Vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin B5 vitamin C, and vitamin E, and research suggests this fruit can lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of diabetes, promote lower body weight, and prevent cancer.  Avocados have had a bad rap for years as rumors abounded to its toxicity for dogs. The truth is it’s the pit or seed, bark and leaves which contain an oil-soluble toxin called persin which can be deadly for birds and large animals such as horses and cattle.

“Despite the rumors, avocado is not poisonous to dogs, nor likely to cats,” says Dr. Justine Lee, a board-certified veterinary specialist in both emergency critical care and toxicology and the CEO and founder of VetGirl.

Bacon is a cured meat prepared from pig which is cured using large quantities of salt.  So while this fatty meat isn't considered a healthy ingredient it can be used sparingly.

Bananas have Vitamins B6 and C, and potassium, adds natural acidophilus bacteria to the bowels in small amounts.

Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain boasting numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. This grain's soluble fiber reduces the risk of heart disease and can lower cholesterol. With less than one gram of fat per serving, barley is a virtually fat-free food and is also cholesterol-free.  An excellent choice for specialized obesity and diabetic pet diets due to its unique nutritional make-up, modest amounts of slowly digested starch and the soluble fiber ß-glucan. Pearled barley is more digestible than whole or cracked barley.

Beef is an excellent source of high quality protein.

Beets are loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C.   They are also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium and iron.  While the sweet beet root has some of the minerals in its greens to a lesser degree, it is also a remarkable source of choline, folic acid, iodine, manganese, organic sodium, potassium, fiber and carbohydrates in the form of natural digestible sugars. 

Bison, also known as buffalo, has a sweeter and richer flavor than beef and nutritionally it has more protein and nutrients with fewer calories and less fat than beef, chicken or salmon.  Bison is a dense meat that tends to satisfy more while eating less.

Blueberries have manganese, Vitamins B6, C, K, and fiber. They are rich in Vitamin A & C, Potassium, Fiber and various carotenoids which are valuable anti-oxidants.

Broths made from scratch provide a rich beef, chicken or ham flavor without the fats or dangerous seasonings which can be found in most commercial brands. 

Brown Rice contains the husk, the bran and the very center which is known as the starch. It's also an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, provides quick energy and is loaded with B vitamins and minerals.The bran layer is what makes the rice rich in fiber and requires a longer cooking time in order for it to become tender. Before cooking brown rice you need to soak it first so it is easier to digest and releases the needed enzymes that allow the rice to be more nutritionally available. In processed and quick cooking rice the husk and bran have been removed so all you're left with is the starch which we refer to as "white rice" which is void of nutritional value.

Carob is low in fat and sodium, high in fiber, potassium, and calcium, and can improve digestion. It has a natural sweetness and contains very little fat, no caffeine and encourages the absorption of calcium. Even though carob looks like, smells like, and has a taste that is similar to chocolate, it does not contain theobromine, the part of chocolate that is toxic to dogs. 

Carrots are high in vitamin A, rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants and minerals, low calorie, and low fat. They are also a good natural source of beta carotene, an antioxidant essential for neutralizing free radicals.

Cheese is high in protein and calcium.  Newer studies indicate cheese may actually re-mineralize your pet’s teeth and reduce the acids that cause plaque and lead to cavities.  Cheese also helps to protect your aging pet from osteoporosis. 

Cherries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins and nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.  They are a blood builder, can assist with elimination, help remove toxic substances, help reduce inflammation which gives relief to arthritis, and reduces risk factors for heart disease. No pitts! 

Chicken is one of the best source of lean proteins, various vitamins, minerals and all nine essential amino acids while low in fat and cholesterol. It has significant amounts of phosphorous and potassium and selenium.  Iron and zinc content in dark meat is much more higher than that in white meat. 

Chicken Liver is an excellent source of high quality protein and a rich source of Vitamins A, D and virtually all of the B vitamins.

Coconut is made up of a beneficial fatty acid chain called Lauric acid, the only other abundant natural source of Lauric acid is human breast milk. When dogs and humans synthesize Lauric acid it produces something called monoglyceride monolaurin which helps fight and destroy viruses and various pathogenic bacteria protecting your pets from infection and boosting their immune systems. It also contains albumin, a water-soluble protein found in many animal tissues and liquids, that significantly assists in the formation of red blood cells.  According to Dr. Bruce Fife, certified nutritionist and naturopathic doctor, coconut oil elevates metabolism and boosts energy by helping to regulate the thyroid helping overweight dogs lose weight and helping sedentary dogs feel energetic. He also maintains that coconut can help protect against illnesses and speed up the healing process. Other benefits of coconut may include an improved skin and coat, improved digestion, reduction in odor, and minimized allergic reactions. It can even help kill worm eggs and rid your pet of ear mites. Coconut is available in many forms - coconut flour, coconut milk, and coconut oil. The optimum amount for dogs is about 1 teaspoon daily per 10 pounds of body weight, or 1 tablespoon per 30 pounds of body weight.

Cranberries, dried, unsweetened help normalize your pet’s bladder health, contains echinacea, which is believed to stimulate the immune system, flavonoids which may fend off cancer and inhibit tumor growth, and vitamin C which is a natural antioxidant.  Cranberry Fiber is the fibrous pulp that includes the flesh and skin of the cranberry. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and also and excellent stool softener. Cranberries have long been known to aid in urinary tract health and since in a majority of fruits, especially cranberries, the “goodness” is found directly in the skin and pulp. Dogs may be given small amounts of cranberries but never large amounts which can cause diarrhea. 

Cranberry juice is considered an effective method for treating mild bladder infections.  It lowers the pH of the urine making it more acidic and therefore helps to naturally eliminate the bacteria. Because many types of bacteria are sensitive to acidic urine and acids in general, this can flush out the bacteria thereby eliminating the infection.

Dried Kelp is the dried product from two families of seaweed. It is an excellent natural source of iodine and also provides beneficial fiber.

Duck is an excellent source of high quality protein and fatty acids.

Eggs, whole, cooked, contain all of the essential amino acids and are an excellent form of digestible protein containing riboflavin, selenium and are an excellent source of protein. Raw egg whites contain avidin which binds to biotin (B Vitamin) to make it unavailable to the pet so it is not recommended to feed pets raw eggs.

Eggshells are a great calcium supplement for dogs fed a homemade diet. Adding calcium will balance the excess phosphorus found in red meat diets that don't include bone. You can use any kind of eggs (chicken, duck, etc.), but choose certified organic eggs from free-range, naturally fed birds. If the bird isn't supplied with proper nutrition the eggshells won’t contain the needed nutrients. Eggshells contain calcium and micro-elements like magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur, silicon and zinc, etc. In total there are 27 vital elements. The composition of an eggshell is very similar to that of bones and teeth. They must be ground to a fine powder in order for them to be digestable.

Gelatin has many benefits. In the wild carnivores naturally consume gelatin and its primary amino acid, glycine, in the skin, tendons and cartilage of their prey. It has anti-inflammatory and brain-protective actions which are especially important during aging and when under stress. Glycine, the main amino acid in gelatin, protects against seizures and brain damage. The benefits of gelatin for dogs with arthritis may include reduced inflammation and reduced pain. However, gelatin is most beneficial if fed as a preventive to help healthy dogs avoid joint disease. Plain, unflavored gelatin is fat and cholesterol free and can be purchased at any grocery store. It can be sprinkled on the food once a day. Try mixing with chicken broth and cut into cubes for an easy dog treat.

Green Beans have lots of green chlorophyll and is fully digestible and packed with nutrients. 

Herring is a source of protein and long chain Omega 3 fatty acids which are critical for healthy skin and coat, proper body function and enhanced learning of young puppies.

Honey contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E, and K, plus calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, sulfur, potassium, manganese, copper, and iodine.  It is the best source of natural energy, a tonic for the nervous system and the heart, immediately absorbed by the blood and inhibits the development of pathogenic bacteria in the digestive.   It is said to increase the absorption of calcium consumed at the same time, help treat or prevent anemia, reduce arthritis pain, and work as a gentle laxative to help prevent constipation.

Holistic studies have shown dogs suffering from environmental allergies can greatly benefit from  raw, local honey. One teaspoon for small dogs or one tablespoon for large dogs can help ease the symptoms of allergies by exposing your dog to a very low level of the substance causing an allergic reaction by developing immunity over time. It is important that the honey is raw and local to your area. When the body is safely exposed to those pollens on a very small level, the body can grow accustomed to the allergens and thus have little to no reaction.  For more information read this article from The Whole Dog Journal

Kale is a nutrient dense leafy green containing beta carotene, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and lutein. It has anti-inflammatory properties,is full of antioxidants and healthy flavonoids, and is believed to help prevent cancer. It can be purchased in the produce section and cooked like spinach. Kirby does like Kale Chips with a touch of sea salt.

Lamb is an excellent source of protein.

Liver (calf, beef, deer, bison) is a nutrient-rich organ meat that provides protein, fat and vitamin A, copper, iron, niacin, phosphorus and zinc. It provides many B vitamins, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and essential amino acids your dog needs from his diet to keep him healthy.  Release any toxins stored in the liver by placing the thawed and drained liver in a container with about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and refrigerate overnight.

While liver offers many health benefits, it can also be harmful if your dog eats too much of it leading to a condition called hypervitaminosis A (overdose of vitamin A) so only feed up to three small servings a week.  Symptoms of a vitamin A overdose can include bone deformity, bone spurs on the dog's legs or spine that cause him to limp, digestive upsets, muscle weakness, stiffness or weight loss. 

Maple syrup (pure) is a natural sweetener with over 54 antioxidants that can help delay or prevent diseases caused by free radicals such as cancer or diabetes. It is an excellent source of manganese which plays an important role in energy production and antioxidant defenses and is necessary for normal brain and nerve function.  It provides riboflavin which aids in the metabolic process and zinc which is essential for a healthy immune system. Other minerals found in maple syrup are calcium and potassium which decreases the risk of hypertension or stroke. The calories in maple syrup are lower than in corn syrup and honey averaging about 50 calories per tablespoon. Maple syrup is used to treat hypoglycemia in Yorkies and there are even studies using maple syrup to fight cancer in dogs.

Milk provides calcium, protein, B vitamins (anti-stress vitamins), vitamin A (for sharp eyesight) and potassium.  It can also protect your dog from osteoporosis and colon cancer.  I generally use dry milk. Many dogs are lactose intolerant so watch for signs such as abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – fairly typical indications of gastrointestinal distress. This is not surprising, because the animal’s gastrointestinal system is missing a key enzyme necessary to digest the sugars in milk. Sometimes, a dog will drink excess amounts of water when suffering from lactose intolerance, since the diarrhea and vomiting associated with the condition can cause dehydration and consequent thirst.  If concerned, or your dog is lactose intolerant, use lactose free milk.

Molasses (Blackstrap) is rich in B vitamins and minerals as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It is a natural sweetener.

Oat flour contains healthy amounts of fiber, selenium (which fights cancer), B vitamins and iron.  

Oatmeal is an excellent source of highly digestible carbohydrates, protein and nutritional fiber.

Olive Oil is considered a healthful dietary oil because of its high content of monounsaturated fat (mainly oleic fatty acid) and polyphenols which are good for skin and coat health and as a treatment for constipation. Olive oil can go rancid and therefore is best consumed within a year of harvest. Most oils, if unopened and stored in a cool dark place, will still be good for up to two years. If an oil is delicate and soft, then you will want to use it quickly, within six months or a year at the most. Visit Good Oils Gone Bad for more information.

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, contain generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium, and thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium.  Their supply of flavonoids make them a valuable aid in strengthening the immune system, supporting connective tissues, and promoting overall good health.  They have been shown to protect against cancer, and fight viral infections.

Peas are an excellent source of protein and fiber.

Peanut butter is high in protein, amino acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus and niacin.  Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts.  Choose natural brands that contain 100% peanuts.  It can be fattening so feed peanut butter sparingly.

Pears are an excellent source of pectin.

Potatoes are considered to be one of the most important foods in the world. They provide a good source of Vitamins B3 and B6, Vitamin C, Potassium, Iron, Copper and Fiber. Significant quantities of manganese, molybdenum, chromium and selenium can be found just beneath the potato’s skin. 

They have a number of medicinal properties, including being anti-inflammatory (except in some arthritic conditions), as well as being able to neutralize body acids and benefit stomach ulcers. In Ayurvedic medicine, potatoes are considered ‘beneficial in function for the spleen-pancreas and reduce Pitta and Kapha.’ In Traditional Chinese Medicine, potatoes are considered neutral, with a propensity for the spleen, stomach and large intestine meridians. Potatoes calm and heal the digestive mucosa as well as work as an antispasmodic, diuretic and emollient. This seemingly trivial vegetable helps to fight against toxins and due to its rich potassium content it helps to eliminate uric acid.  Potatoes have been associated with some adverse publicity in the past due to their content of glycoalkaloids. Avoid the stems, shoots and green parts of the skin of potatoes which should be removed before serving.

Pecans are a good low fat source of vitamin E.

Pumpkin is packed with large quantities of vitamin A for resistance to infections, improve night vision and keep the body's membranes healthy, potassium for good blood pressure, iron for healthy blood, and roughage to help digestion. Pumpkin has been documented to regulate both constipation and diarrhea in dogs. We only use fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin, never pumpkin pie mix which has sugar and other harmful ingredients.

Quinoa (keen-wa) which has a mild, nutty flavor and a light, fluffy texture similar to couscous is a seed from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets. It's high in fiber and high-quality protein. In fact, it contains more protein than any other grain while also packing in iron and potassium. One half cup of quinoa has 14 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. This gluten free superfood is classified as a whole grain and is naturally gluten-free. This powerfood is only 172 calories per 1/4 cup dry with 24 of the calories being protein and only 12 from sugars, the rest are complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats. 

Rye Flour is very low in gluten and contains more protein, phosphorus, iron, potassium and B vitamins than whole wheat.  It comes in various form: rye flour, whole grain rye (or groats), rye grits, rye meal (ground so that it resembles cornmeal), rye flakes or rolled rye (looks almost like oatmeal).

Safflower oil, which is flavorless and colorless, is a good source of vitamins E and K, contains omega 6 fatty acids, and may help moisturize your dog's skin.

Salmon is an excellent source of high quality protein, calcium, phosphorous and long chain Omega 3 fatty acids, which are critical for healthy skin, coat and proper body function.

Salmon oil is high in Omega 3 fatty acid, specifically EPA and DHA.

Sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent  cancer, reduce inflammation, keep the immune system strong, and help brain development.  They also contain Coenzyme Q10  which supports a healthy heart and circulation, and  prevents dental disease. One small sardine contains 25 calories and 175 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, a good dose for a dog who weighs 20 pounds or less. Sardines are small fish so they don’t have time to pick up heavy metals in their short lives.

Spelt flour which has a mild nutty flavor is naturally high in fiber, contains significantly more protein than wheat, is also higher in B complex vitamins, and both simple and complex carbohydrates. Another important benefit is that some gluten-sensitive people have been able to include spelt-based foods in their diets. Flour made from this versatile grain can be substituted for wheat flour in breads, pasta, cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pancakes and waffles.

Spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s concentrated in health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids to provide powerful antioxidant protection against inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, bone problems, and cancers at the same time. The vitamin K provided by spinach is important for maintaining bone health. Vitamin K1 helps prevent excessive activation of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. Additionally, friendly bacteria in the intestines convert vitamin K1 into vitamin K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone.  Spinach is also an excellent source of other bone-supportive nutrients including calcium and magnesium.  

Squash is an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams are low in Sodium and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol, a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Manganese.  Sweet potatoes have even been known to help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics. Be aware that potato peels and green potatoes are dangerous to dogs. 

Tomatoes contain high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, and the powerful antioxidant lycopene which was proven to lower the risk of cancer and degenerative diseases. Beware that dogs cannot eat the green unripe fruits, leaves, or stem which contain tropane and atropine alkaloids. The tomatine alkaloid present in green unripe fruits and in the tomato plant is highly poisonous to dogs.  Excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation are signs of tomato toxicity. Dogs that have ingested green tomatoes will suffer from stomach upsets because tomatine is not efficiently absorbed by the intestines.  The cardiac and the central nervous systems of the dog will be directly affected by the toxins present in unripe tomatoes.  Ingestion of a considerable amount of unripe tomatoes or leaves and stem of the plant would result in accelerated heartbeats. The toxins will cause tremors, muscle weakness and breathing difficulties which can lead to coma and death. 

Tuna, which is low in fat and calories, is packed with lean protein, vitamins B and D, and omega-3 fatty acids known to relieve joint pain, protect the heart, promote brain health and boost the immune system. I use both canned tuna and frozen tuna.

Turkey has more protein per gram than both chicken and beef while remaining lower in fat and cholesterol than other meats. It also delivers vitamins and minerals, especially niacin, which facilitates the conversion of food into available energy, and Vitamin B6, which is important for the health of the nervous system. Turkey also has selenium, which is essential for proper thyroid and immune function.

Turnip greens are an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, carotenoids, most B vitamins, fiber and manganese. They are also a good source of calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, and provide a complement of antioxidants.  Cruciferous vegetables are very healthy but can suppress thyroid function if large amounts are fed raw so feed in limited amounts or cook first. The cruciferous family includes arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, turnip greens, watercress, rutabaga, daikon, and kohlrabi.

Venison (deer) is an excellent source of protein, while, unlike most meats, it tends to be fairly low in fat, especially saturated fat. It's a good source of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and niacin.

Whitefish (cod, haddock, sea bass, pollack, coley, hake, whiting, plaice, sole, John Dory, halibut, flounder and turbot) is an excellent source of high quality protein, calcium, phosphorous and long chain Omega 6 fatty acids, which are critical for healthy skin, coat and body function. 

Yogurt provides probiotics promoting healthy digestion, eliminating unhealthy bacteria and providing healthy bacteria, it also fights such nasty germs as Salmonella typhimurium and Staphyloccus aureus.

**Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any natural or herbal products.